“Anybody can run the first half of a race, but it takes a true competitor to compete in the second half of the race.”
These words from David Kempston’s high school coach still ring in his ears over thirty years later.
Kempston, a trial lawyer, who loves to run, shared the basis of this advice in his book “Lessons Learned On The Run: A Book About Running and Life.”
It was his Junior year in High School and he was splitting his time running on both the Varsity and JV teams. On this lovely Spring afternoon, he was slated to participate in a 3200-meter race on the JV squad. His Coach was confident in David’s ability to win the race and communicated to him the importance of the event. He explained that a good performance could earn him a berth in the upcoming district race.
Kempston recalls that as the gun sounded he sprinted to an early and comfortable lead. With about 600 meters to go fatigue set in. So, knowing he was far ahead of the pack and had the race won, he began to coast.
As a rounded the final turn, he remembers there was an unusual amount of cheering for a JV race. Bursting with pride, he began to accelerate but still didn’t go all out. With about 10 meters to go, he suddenly realized the crowd wasn’t cheering for him, but for a teammate who caught him at the finish line. Needless to say, Kempston’s coach was furious as he awarded the other runner the first place prize.
Kempston wrote, “I learned a great lesson that day. Always run through the tape. Finish strong.”
Finishing well isn’t limited to running or sports. It’s true in every area of life. Your academic endeavors. Your career. Your marriage. And most importantly your spiritual relationship.
Using the metaphor of the sports world, the apostle Paul often compared the Christian life to a race.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. –1 Cor. 9:24-27
Through the years, I’ve witnessed young people begin the race, but become enamored by some philosophy or diverted by false religion and quit the race.
I’ve known of both men and women who began well and were running strong, suddenly became enticed by the lust of the flesh, and not only left the race but their spouse and family as well.
I’ve known preachers who encouraged others to run with endurance, looking to Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith, only to be discouraged or distracted and leave both their ministry and the Lord.
I’ve known pastors who once were Shepherding with care and compassion, only to be drawn away from the Chief Shepherd” and are no longer running the race.
Maybe even sadder yet, I’ve known of a few who’ve served the Lord their entire lives, but for some reason known only to them and the Lord, to give up before crossing the finish line.
I want to finish well.
At 74 years old I’m either rounding the final turn or approaching it. I’m learning that this stage of life is filled with its own unique challenges, problems, and pitfalls. Furthermore, it seems that Satan doesn’t quit trying to get us to quit, regardless of our age or time running the race.
Brethren, let’s keep on running the race set before. If you’ve fallen by the wayside, come and rejoin us. And begin again. So that one day, we may echo together Paul’s words;
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. –2 Tim. 4;6-8
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman